Cuisine Fiend

silver palate chocolate cake


Silver palate chocolate cake

The Silver Palate Cookbook, a dinner party bible born in the US in the eighties is the source of this recipe. It didn't mean much to me when I first saw the recipe in NY Times Cooking (wrong age, wrong country), but I'm always on the lookout for a good chocolate cake. And what a revelation: what we’ve got here is a shortcut to the best birthday cake ever. And I certainly know what I’m talking about: I’ve made this twice in the space of two days, because one hardly yielded enough to satisfy the well-wishers for a 90th birthday.

Ninetieth birthday – I can’t quite imagine being that age. I’m – ahem – quite old in my perception, but NINETY! Geez, that’s having been around for the Great War – almost. That’s having been conscripted for the WW2. That’s – as the birthday boy never fails to point out – being in Egypt with the PoWs. That's making it to Berlin in 1945, seeing off the Cold War, going through the birth of NHS, Harold Wilson’s failures and victories, Thatcher years, the lot. Am I going to live as long? Will I say one day I’ve been through the Zuckerberg years? The Trump era? The robot rebellion (or something like it)?

The best chocolate cake

Anyway – the birthday boy approved of my chocolate cake. Regardless of his son’s disparaging guidance: ‘Just give him chocolate and cream. As sweet as it can go’, he definitely knows quality. Someone who’s lived through rationing, the suet puddings, the saltless vegetables boiled to death, the ‘foreign muck’ that subsequently was to turn out ‘really tasty’ will know what’s good and what’s not. My chocolate cake was deemed VERY GOOD. I bask in pride.

silver palate chocolate cake


  • For the cake:
  • 115g (1 stick) butter
  • 85g (3oz.) dark cooking chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
  • 300g (1½ cup) sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 120ml (½ cup) sour cream
  • 250g (1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons) plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • For the frosting:
  • 30g (2 tbsp.) butter
  • 125g (¾ cup) dark cooking chocolate, about 50% cocoa
  • 90g (6 tbsp.) double cream
  • 100g (1 scant cup) icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Dark chocolate


Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4. Prepare a 23cm (10in) cake tin by buttering the sides and bottom or lining it with parchment.

Break the chocolate into small pieces, dice the butter and place it in a large bowl. Add the cocoa, the vanilla and pour over the boiling water. Let it sit until melted, then add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Add the egg yolks to the chocolate liquid and whisk them in, one by one. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into a bowl with the soured cream and whisk it into the chocolate mix. Stir the baking powder into the flour and add it to the bowl; whisk the mix until the lumps disappear.

Beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form. Add a third to the cake mix and stir it in; then fold the rest of the egg whites into the cake batter. It will be very runny. Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes; until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, unmold and cool completely (chill in the fridge if possible) before frosting.

The best chocolate cake mix

Mix all the frosting ingredients in a saucepan and heat them up over low heat, whisking to combine. When it’s smooth and warm, pour it all over the top of the cake in spiral ribbons, letting the frosting trickle down the sides. Leave for an hour to set before cutting.

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